About Grumbling Gryphons
Actor Sam Waterston, left, watches as Gov. John G. Rowland presents one of five 2003 Governor’s Arts Awards to Leslie Elias, artistic director of Grumbling Gryphons Traveling Children’s Theatre, at the Shubert Theater Tuesday, June 17, 2003 in New Haven. The awards recognize artistic achievement and contributions to the arts in Connecticut.
Winner of the 2003 Connecticut Governor’s Art Award, Grumbling Gryphons Traveling Children’s Theater has been delighting audiences nationally and internationally for 30 years. From Lincoln Center in New York City to thousands of schools and theaters throughout the U.S. and abroad, Grumbling Gryphons have made an important impact on children throughout the world. They are well known for their fantastic masks, captivating costumes, and their joyful interaction with children. In schools, the Gryphons provide a unique hands-on approach to education. Through pre-performance workshops in drama, music and movement, every student is engaged in the creative process of theater, from improvisation to rehearsal to the culminating performance, in which the entire school population takes part. The environmental, multicultural and mythological stories touch the hearts, minds and imaginations of children and adults alike.
Grumbling Gryphons is available for performances or workshops or a combination of both. The number of performers/facilitators varies depending on need and show selection. Shows and workshops are appropriate for all aged family audiences and children in grades K-8. Special performances and workshops are given for pre-school ages.
About The Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award
The Governor’s Arts Awards honor Connecticut’s most accomplished individuals and organizations for their significant achievement and outstanding contribution in the fields of performing arts, visual arts, film and video, and literary arts; dedication to the arts in Connecticut; and their contribution to the growth and development of Connecticut’s cultural life.
Nominees may be individuals or organizations. Individuals must be Connecticut residents with a history of arts and or TV/video/film activity in the state. Organizations must be Connecticut-based. Individuals may not nominate themselves. Previous award recipients are not eligible to be nominated.
Criteria: Recipients (individuals or organizations) for arts or film award will be selected based on:
• Artistic excellence and record of accomplishment
• Dedication and commitment to arts or film in Connecticut
• Contributions to the growth and development of the cultural life of Connecticut
• Effectiveness in communicating the important role the arts or film to business, government and community leaders.
In 2003, the Grumbling Gryphons received this coveted award, having met all the criteria listed above.
Excerpts from some of the accolades the commission received in support of the Gryphon’s nomination included these:
"My sons when they were nine and six became involved in a summer workshop production of THE GHOST NET. Daily they made masks and imaginative scenery; daily they moved to music and worked towards a deadline; and forged that special bond that comes when a group of people, no matter how young or old, works together to create.
They were, in short, enriched. And so were we all. For the parable they were enacting in this colorful, child-like presentation was one of vital importance."
Tom Jones, playwright, lyricist, and author of THE FANTASTICKS,
I DO! I DO!, 100 IN THE SHADE, and other musicals.
"From the first pre-performance workshop to the final bow, the children were engaged, entertained and empowered – not an easy task with 260 preschool through 8th graders! I appreciate how easy you were to work with and applaud your ability to allow the production to be a creation of the children without making it into a highly stressed performance. I found it fascinating that the troupe was able to pull so many small group parts into a coalesced final performance just 4 hours later. Your professionalism was extraordinary!"
Molly Nagel, Preschool Director and Event Coordinator,
The Chapel School, Bronxville, NY
"The group’s artistic director, Leslie Elias, and her associates have brought to Connecticut children countless numbers of high quality theater performances and hands-on activities that span the wide range of theater and art. To enumerate their entire list of accomplishments these past 23 years would be a massive task. It is important for me to say that all of their efforts, while being highly entertaining, concentrate on developing in children an appreciation for sound moral behavior, tolerance of others of diverse ethnicity and background, and love and understanding for each other."
Benjamin DaSilva, Chairman,
Danbury (CT) Cultural Commission
"Leslie Elias is an amazing woman and performer. ‘The show must go on’ is her mantra. I watched her enrapture an auditorium full of children (while 8-months pregnant with twin boys) performing her magical show, GHOST NET. Leslie’s imagination has no bounds. She’s a born teacher, story teller, performer, and magnet to children whose language she speaks. Additionally, she’s a gracious woman who through her career has contributed enormously to the enrichment of children throughout this country and abroad."
Bettie Snyder, actor who worked with
the Gryphons for about 20 years
"Each performance has an underlying educational theme. I remember clearly how GHOST NET celebrated Long Island Sound. Sixth grade students found trash, constructed trash costumes and became Trash Creatures for the afternoon. Surely none of these students will ever foul Long Island Sound again!
The excitement, anticipation and joy are wonderful to behold when the Grumbling Gryphons are in residence."
Ann C. Petro, Principal, Sunnyside School, Shelton, CT
"In my experience the Grumbling Gryphons is one of the finest performing groups available to work with schools. They do an extraordinary job of communicating with the school to plan their visit. Their print material to be shared with the teachers prior to their visit is extremely well prepared and appreciated by the staff. On the day of their visit, members of the group meet with the classes to present theater workshops and to provide the students with roles to be incorporated into the actual performance. Their performances are entertaining for adults as well as students."
Dr. Dale Bernardoni, Principal,
Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School, Hamden, CT
(now Principal, McKinley Elementary School, Danbury, CT)
"The (various Grumbling Gryphons) performances I have scheduled during the past 20 years have not only introduced children to Greek myths, cultural folktales and environmental concerns, but have also encouraged children’s participation in dancing, singing, and acting, and served for many of them as an introduction to the theater. The combination of lively music, humor, beautiful costumes and masks has created an enjoyable, yet educational, experiences for the children from pre-school to sixth grade, and have earned raves from the area school teachers whose classes have attended these performances."
Marianne Generali, Director, Naugatuck Valley Community College
Child Development Center, Waterbury, CT
"This wonderful troupe performed at Artwell Gallery as the culminating event for a week long workshop with the Torrington (CT) Middle School. Through music, imaginative costumes, masks and a story educating us about the plight of the oceans, Artwell was transformed into a shimmering undersea world populated by brightly colored fish played by school children. Since this is participation theater, the children had the opportunity to better empathize with life in the ocean; and consequently, were more effectively sensitized to environmental issues than if they’d simply observed passively. The Gryphons also performed “Anansi the Spider” at Artwell with Torrington school children and again demonstrated their ability to present informative, educational material vibrantly and creatively while providing children with the organic experience of walking in the shoes of another’s culture."
Stewart Wilson, Executive Director,
Artwell Gallery, Torrington, CT
“"Positive energy is the great gift of the Grumbling Gryphons to the arts in Connecticut. They remove the passivity of "seeing a play." The performance experience they provide convinces children and adults that theater is a multifaceted, collaborative artistic endeavor, and it is for everyone."
Sarah Blexrud, English teacher,
Cornwall (CT) Consolidated School
"Through a grant from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, Leslie Elias became our Artist in Residence. She worked closely with North Canaan’s teacher of the gifted and talented in producing an historical pageant about our area of Connecticut. She challenged the students by having them interview local knowledgeable residents, research historical materials, and write creative accounts of past events. The result was "A Backward Voyage: A Fantasy Adventure of Canaan’s History," written by the students, under Ms. Elias’s direction, and performed in three Canaan schools. This project in honor of Canaan’s 250th anniversary resulted in increasing the school community’s understanding, awareness and appreciation of Canaan’s land and history."
Linda M. Lackner, Principal,
North Canaan (CT) Elementary School
"Working intensely with 20 students on a new historical theater piece for the Stowe Center’s annual celebration of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s birthday, Leslie Elias’ leadership role for this project brought together her ability to connect with children, to combine various artists into a theatre production, and to use themes and characters from history to transform students’ lives. The Grumbling Gryphons troupe has terrific music, mask making, and dance abilities."
Katherine Kane, Executive Director,
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT
"I met Leslie Elias in 1990 after arriving in Connecticut for my first job out of college. After auditioning and being hired for her new production of The Ghost Net, thus began an exciting journey as performer and educator. The Ghost Net is a musical focused on the conservation of our oceans. This musical and every show created by Ms. Elias use the art of theater to address lifetime issues that children face. In one morning we teach workshops about the environment; in the afternoon the theater performance became as thrilling as a sporting event, with cheers and cries of anguish during the more serious parts. I still have letters written to me by the children expressing their will to make a difference in their future world by recycling and not littering. Some letters declared a new dream to be an oceanographer; it would not surprise me if that dream later becomes true."
Laura Kirk, Actress and Independent Film Maker
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